UCF College of Business alumnus Carey Sobel ’09 has made it a priority to conduct himself and his businesses with integrity. It’s what he hopes he will always be remembered for.
Now a partner at both Three21 and Boss Group International, he has been growing his reputation as an entrepreneur in the Orlando community since he arrived on UCF’s campus in 2004. It’s his success in the business industry, along with his commitment to excellence, service and philanthropy, that garnered him the honor as UCF Alumni’s first recipient of the Young Alumni Award, which he received at a ceremony Friday at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
If you take a look at his life away from the office and the community, the bigger picture comes into focus – there’s more to his story.
For the past few months, Sobel and his wife Lauren ’12 ’17 have been adapting to their new lives as parents to their 6-year-old niece, Marley. The couple decided to care for the child after Marley’s father – Lauren’s brother, David – and mother died unexpectedly two years ago.
“We said it felt like this was our calling,” Sobel said. “One of the things that brought Lauren and I together was family.”
When Marley lost her parents, Lauren’s family needed to decide the best option for her permanent future. Lauren was still in school at the time pursuing her doctoral degree in physical therapy, and she and Sobel weren’t married yet.
Once wedding planning was finished, Lauren finished school in May 2017 and Sobel’s two businesses were established, the time felt right for Marley to move from her grandparents’ home in Clearwater to Orlando to live permanently with the Sobels.
“We felt drawn to her,” Lauren said. “We may have begun as her aunt and uncle, but she has held a place in our hearts since day one. We felt that if anyone would be able to raise Marley like he and her mother would have wanted her to be raised, it would be us.”
For Sobel, who typically spent 10-12 hours a day working, life needed to adjust quickly in order to be the type of father that he wanted to be to Marley.
“My work-life balance before marriage and parenthood wasn’t great. It’s something I’ve battled my whole life. I’m slowly getting better. My wife is incredible, though, and helps me get better with it,” he said. “She’s a natural-born mother, and she’s been doing a really good job. I’ve been learning from her.”
He has cared for Marley when she’s gotten sick. The phrases “bed-time,” “homework -time” and “story-time” have made their way into his regularly vocabulary. He is learning to master the skill of tying ponytails and is still working on the art of negotiating dinner options with a 6-year-old.
“I know how important his work is to him, and regardless of his busy schedule, I have watched him prioritize his role as a dad to Marley over everything,” said Lauren, who also works a full-time job. “We learned the importance of having a team mentality as a couple a long time ago, and being parents to Marley has been no exception.”
As he has grown into his role as a husband and a father, his priorities at work remain the same.
He currently serves as partner and chief strategy officer for Three21, a full-service digital marketing company that has grown into a multi-million dollar, award winning agency. The firm employs many UCF alumni, and offers internships to UCF, Valencia and Full Sail students.
Sobel is also a partner at Boss Group International, a business brokerage firm where he helps people buy and sell businesses.
He also lends his time to UCF as a board member of the Young Alumni Council and the UCF College of Business Alumni Chapter, actively participates in speaking engagements for students, and is also involved in the College of Business mentorship program.
“Carey truly holds himself to a certain standard that he wants to meet each year – setting personal goals and devising a game plan to achieve them,” Lauren said. “If Carey assumes a role in life, be it business broker, marketing director, chief strategy officer, husband, son, and now father, he ensures that his whole heart goes into fulfilling that role. I truly believe it’s that quality that separates the dreamers from the doers, and Carey is a doer.”
That was evident in 2004 when the Philadelphia native moved to Orlando from South Florida as a first-year management student. Thanks to a background as a DJ in high school, he and a friend decided to start an entertainment business.
He firmly planted himself in Orlando from that point on, cultivating eight different business ventures in Central Florida, ranging from hospitality, marketing, entertainment and real estate/brokerage, all before the age of 30.
Now with his focus on Three21 and Boss Group International, along with his family, Sobel wants to continue to help Orlando to grow.
“Downtown Orlando, as a metro city, is really booming with great opportunity. I want to show people that and work with them,” he said. “I want to do my part to help people stay in Orlando.”
As he works to create a positive environment and culture in his own businesses, he knows there’s even a greater responsibility to do the same at home.
“I want to have an impact on the people that are here. I like that I have a decent-sized staff who look up to me to be a leader. I want to have that same mentality with Marley,” he said. “I want her to look at me as a leader, a resource, as someone she can be comfortable with and rely on.”